Students in Stewart Scales’ Geography of Virginia class had the opportunity to visit Natural Tunnel, a striking example of karst, a topography where the slow erosion of carbonate rock such as limestone gives way to caves, sinkholes, and other notable features.

“In my regional geography classes, I try to illustrate the importance of how the rocks beneath us determine so much of what we see today across the landscape, and how geology and topography determine where our water goes, where we choose to build settlements and towns, and so much more about human geography,” said Scales, who is an advanced instructor in the Department of Geography. “There’s no better way to learn about these topics than visiting a site and seeing these physical processes in action.”

The tunnel, formed along a fault line and created by water eroding the walls over millions of years, is both geologically significant and historically important, with the Natural Tunnel State Park featuring a recreation of a 1700’s era blockhouse that would have been used for housing and defense on Virginia’s early frontier.

“I’ve found that my students benefit greatly by having a field component to their learning,” said Scales. “It allows us to take our classroom knowledge, apply it in a hands-on environment, and make memories that will last well beyond their time in CNRE.”